Like so many residents of Jonesport and Beals, Gary Wilson doesn’t know what to make of the sexual abuse allegations against longtime basketball coach Ordman Alley.

Wilson, a painter and pastor at a local church, said he’s known Alley for years and considers him a friend. He doesn’t want to believe the allegations, but he also said that so much time has passed since the alleged abuse occurred that the black-and-white truth, whatever it is, is almost certainly colored by time.

“I just don’t want this to cause a rift in these communities,” he said. “The towns don’t need that.”

Ever since Alley was removed this month as an inaugural inductee of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, a decision precipitated by allegations that he sexually abused at least two teenage girls, the close-knit communities have been struggling to make sense of the stories.

Over the course of two days in Jonesport and Beals last week, the Maine Sunday Telegram interviewed dozens of people. Most were hesitant to talk. Others spoke but declined to give their names. A few did agree to speak publicly.

Here’s what was learned:

The allegations are not new, at least not to locals. Stories about Alley have persisted in Jonesport and Beals for years like badly kept secrets.

—  Alley, now 72, has achieved almost mythical status in eastern Maine because of his coaching resume, but he’s not universally adored in his hometown.

His coaching style has been criticized. He’s been called arrogant and egotistical. Some admit that animosity is rooted in jealousy of the man’s successes, although it’s noteworthy that there are no plaques or pictures or banners with Alley’s name hanging in the high school gymnasium.

Many think that if any abuse happened, it needed to be addressed decades ago. Absent any proof, what can be done about it now?

Yet there is also the sense that if any abuse happened, the communities are at fault for not taking allegations seriously all those years ago, for sweeping them under the rug.

Rocky Alley hasn’t spoken to many people about the sexual abuse allegations against his former coach and second cousin, Ordman Alley, because he doesn’t know what to think.

Like many boys who grew up in the twin coastal Washington County communities of Jonesport and Beals, Rocky played for the legendary coach in the 1970s.

He won three state championships in his four years and still holds Ordman in high regard.

Now Rocky, like many boys who became men and stayed in Jonesport and Beals, hauls lobster. He crosses paths frequently with Ordman, who also is a lobsterman.

“I hate to think something like that could have happened,” Rocky said last week. “I have no way of knowing and I feel bad if it did or if it was covered up, but I have a hard time condemning someone without any proof.”

Whether the allegations are true or not, Wilson said he feels for Alley’s family members, his wife, Donna, his children, Kimberly, Skipper and Troy, and his grandchildren, most of whom still live in town. Ordman Alley has lived there all his life.

On a broader level, two communities that are unaccustomed to the spotlight, at least the type that isn’t related to basketball, have been suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

And they are not comfortable.

 

To get to Jonesport, take Route 187, which juts out like an elbow from Route 1, the main road through Washington County.

To get to Beals, drive through Jonesport and take the narrow bridge over the bay that connects the island to the mainland.

The picturesque beauty of the area known as the Bold Coast belies widespread poverty. In the 2010 census, 31 percent of children under the age of 18 were below the poverty level, compared to 18 percent for Maine as a whole.

The communities are not close to anything, except the ocean, whose lobster, clams, quahogs and periwinkles provide the area with its economic backbone.

There are no movie theaters or bowling alleys in town. No sit-down restaurants or coffee shops. There are probably more lobster boats in the harbor than vehicles on the road.

But there is basketball.

There has always been basketball.

And if basketball is a religion in these towns, Ordman Alley served as its larger-than-life pastor for four decades.

As coach of the Jonesport-Beals Royals, Alley won nine state titles, 14 Eastern Maine championships and more than 500 games – a resume matched by few in Maine’s schoolboy basketball history.

Every winter, Alley carried the hopes of the entire community when he made the 160-mile round-trip pilgrimage with his team to the Bangor Auditorium for the Class D tournament.

But according to two women who have come forward this summer, Alley had a darker side, too.

They say that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was still an up-and-coming coach in a small town that lives for basketball, Alley had sexual relationships with them while they were his students.

They say Alley used his position of authority (he was a middle school teacher as well as a coach) and they felt powerless to come forward at the time because of who he was.

One of his alleged victims wrote Alley a letter in 2005 in which she described in great detail the circumstances of her sexual relationship with him. She said she first had sex with him when she was 13 years old.

The letter writer didn’t want money. She didn’t want to go public. She just wanted him to admit what he did.

Alley never responded.

Nearly nine years later, the woman, now 58, sent the letter to the board of directors of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, which had nominated Alley for its inaugural class.

Board members removed Alley as an inductee, a move that prompted the Maine Sports of Hall of Fame, which had inducted Alley in 2003, to expel him from their rolls.

Alley, in a lengthy statement released through an attorney, vehemently denied the allegations, which he called “unfounded lies which have kept me out of my rightful place in the Maine Sports Halls of Fame.”

“These allegations have been made by two individuals who have historically demonstrated their personal animosity toward me.”

The women spoke to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on the condition that they not be identified, on the advice of their attorney. As well, the newspaper does not identify victims of sex crimes – which these women allege they are – without their consent. The newspaper also did not disclose the nature of their allegations until Alley himself released a public statement acknowledging that such accusations had been leveled against him.

Because the alleged relationships occurred so long ago, it’s not likely they will be investigated. The statute of limitations for any crimes that might have happened in the 1970s has long run out.

The truth may be relegated to a “he said-she said,” debate.

 

The woman who wrote Alley the letter in 2005 said he was her teacher at the Cove School, a now-closed middle school in Jonesport where he worked from the late 1960s through the late 1970s – the same period during which he built the high school basketball program into a regional powerhouse.

She said she was a willing participant in the sexual encounters and admitted that she did have a crush on Alley, who was handsome and charismatic and made her feel special.

But even then, she said, she knew the relationship was wrong and, as time passed, she realized that his treatment of her affected her adult life a great deal.

She said she also came to learn that she was not the only teenage girl with whom Alley allegedly had a relationship.

Another woman said she too had a romantic relationship with Alley that began when she was 13. She also has said that Alley is the father of her daughter, a claim he has denied.

Alley’s attorney, Brett Baber, said Alley was asked to take a paternity test because the woman named him as a possible father when applying for benefits through the Department of Health and Human Services.

“He submitted the test because he was asked, and the results conclusively determined that he was not the father,” Baber said last week.

Charles Lakeman, who was principal of the Cove School at the time and still lives Down East, said he “puts no stock” in the allegations.

“I never had any issues with (Alley) or worried about his interactions with students,” Lakeman said.

Scott Ryan, who has lived in town for decades, said he doesn’t know whether he believes the stories but said he has no trouble believing that many young girls would have had crushes on Alley.

“He was good looking,” Ryan said at the Moosabec Video & Variety, one of the only gathering spots in Jonesport, a place where lobstermen come in off the water to get a cold drink. “I think a lot of people want (the allegations) to be true because they don’t like him.”

Wilson, who taught for 33 years before becoming a painter and pastor, said when he was a teacher, he always followed a lesson his dad gave him.

“Make sure you’re never in a room alone with just one student,” Wilson said. “Because one accusation and your reputation can be ruined.”

Still, many in town say those allegations were well-known long before the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame acted.

Residents said privately that they believe Alley was never investigated because he was so well-known and respected because of his basketball acumen that he achieved an untouchable status.

The alleged victim who wrote Alley the letter said she never went public with the allegations back in the 1970s because her family talked her out of it, for fear that she would be dragged through the mud. They also thought no one would believe her.

“You were a God,” she wrote. “The big famous basketball coach, and we all know that basketball was more important than anything.”

 

Residents agree that basketball has long been a unifying force for the towns.

“Basketball is what this town lives for,” said Jerry Hoeft.

Ordman Alley, before he became one of the state’s winningest high school coaches, was a star player himself, first in high school and then at what is now the University of Maine at Machias. When he returned in 1966 to coach at his hometown, everyone had high expectations and Alley delivered, and then some.

His teams were defined by an up-tempo, run-and-gun style and were fun to watch. But some say his success on the court was more a function of the talent of his players than his coaching abilities.

Alley, in a column in the Bangor Daily News from 1982, admitted he was a disciplinarian. “I demand respect from the kids and I try to impart from them a sense of sportsmanship,” he said.

That said, Alley’s desire to win sometimes conflicted with that sense of sportsmanship.

In 1975, Alley’s Royals, which already had won five straight gold balls, again found themselves in the Eastern Maine championship game at the old Bangor Auditorium, a place where Alley had so much success that some referred to it as the “Ordietorium.”

Jonesport-Beals and rival Gould Academy were neck and neck for the entire game. Late in the fourth quarter, with about five seconds left on the clock, Gould scored a basket to go on top by one point.

Hoping to get one last chance to win, one of Alley’s players tried to signal for a timeout to stop the clock. The referee, however, did not see the signal. The clock ran out, and Jonesport-Beals lost the game.

Alley was so infuriated that he chased the referees as they walked off the court, but no one would talk. In protest, he refused to accept the runner-up trophy, a show of defiance that got his team suspended for the next season.

In that 1982 column, Alley defended his actions. “I don’t apologize for it,” he said. “It all boils down to winning.”

Later in his career, in 1988, Alley was forced to reapply for his job after the athletic director at the time, Bruce Crowley, heard from a number of residents who had grown weary of Alley’s coaching tenure.

Alley said at the time that he was embarrassed to have to apply for his job, especially given all the success he brought the program. He said he considered not reapplying but did. He ended up coaching for another 15 years.

In 2000, Alley was diagnosed with prostate cancer and scaled back his coaching duties. A short time later, he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called myasthenia gravis that required regular treatment.

He retired for good in 2005, the same year he received a letter from his former student asking him to acknowledge that he took advantage of her sexually all those years ago.

There was no big sendoff when he retired. No testimonials.

Inside the barn-like gymnasium at Jonesport-Beals High School, there are no pictures, plaques or banners honoring the longtime coach.

Just a case full of gold balls.

 

Alley still lives on Beals Island, just across the bridge from Jonesport.

His house is a bit nicer than most of the modest homes in the two communities, which like much of Washington County, is stagnant with poverty.

But, just as on the basketball court, Alley has found success as a lobsterman. He and his wife owned a home in Zephyrhills, Florida, and spent winters there for years, but they sold that house in May, according to public records.

Rocky Alley said he knows people are jealous of Ordman’s success but he’s not one of them.

“What he’s got, he’s earned,” Rocky said. “I don’t begrudge his success.”

In a 1999 story in the Bangor Daily News, Ordman Alley said he left teaching in the late 1970s to become a lobsterman full time because he loved being on the water.

He said at the time that he had received plenty of offers to go coach elsewhere, at bigger or more high-profile schools, but never did. “This is my home,” he said. “There is where my family grew up and where I grew up. I’ve got no reason to leave.”

That is what makes the sexual abuse allegations so hard for the communities to grapple with. Alley is one of them – a native son who has done more to promote Jonesport-Beals than perhaps anyone.

Baber, Alley’s attorney, said his client is “upset about being pilloried in the press,” and is exploring any and all action against the two women who have made the allegations. Alley has no criminal record and has not been sued in civil court, either. Maine State Police and the county sheriff’s office would not comment on whether he has ever been investigated.

Back in the community, most people last week said they didn’t want to comment about Alley or the allegations.

Just leave it alone, they said.

Down at the water’s edge, where lobstermen came in to weigh their catch, the common refrain was, “This is no one’s business.”

At Moosabec Video & Variety, most townspeople said the outcome of the allegations is uncertain but, as one put it, “This game has no winners.”

Said another, quoting the Bible, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Added a third, “Don’t you want to talk about something else? Like lobster, or how poor we all are.”

Scott Ryan said he honestly doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not.

“I hate to see someone get railroaded,” he said. “When the rumor mill starts, it can banjo.”

Others agreed that they don’t quite know if the stories about Alley started because they were true or whether they started as unfounded rumors that were retold so often that they became stated facts.

But many believe the alleged victims and say these women have nothing to gain, and nothing to lose, from coming forward all these years later.

Alley, though, can lose a lot, including the thing that many believe matters most to him.

His legacy.

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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